Mayoral candidate rejects 1-on-1 debate

Lopez declines McNamara’s offer, wants all-parties forum

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    Democratic Toledo mayoral candidate Joe McNamara on Friday challenged Anita Lopez — the only other Democrat in the race — to a one-on-one debate.


    Her swift response: No, thanks.

    “I want to discuss our plans to create jobs, reduce crime, and strengthen neighborhoods,” Mr. McNamara said. “Our party deserves to hear from each of the candidates in a debate. I expect that my opponent would be eager to debate these important issues with me.”

    Ms. Lopez said she would participate in a debate with all the candidates, but not one that pits her against just Mr. McNamara.

    “Does he know it is not a partisan race? Maybe I am the first person to tell him,” Ms. Lopez said. “I am more than willing to debate, but I will debate all the candidates. There is no Democratic primary.”

    Ms. Lopez turned the question of a one-on-one debate into an opportunity to criticize Mr. McNamara and Mayor Mike Bell. “As the former president of city council, Joe McNamara should have challenged Mike Bell and failed to challenge Mike Bell as mayor,” she said. “The former president of city council failed to challenge Mike Bell, and he failed to challenge him on water rates, failed to challenge him on deteriorating neighborhoods.”

    She added that Mr. McNamara “failed to challenge Mike Bell on releasing gang maps.”

    The mayor has refused to release a map created by the police department that shows where gangs in Toledo operate. Mr. McNamara actually has called on the mayor to release the map to The Blade, which asked for the document under Ohio’s open-records laws.

    Regarding water rates, a majority of Toledo City Council on April 30 approved increasing water rates for Toledoans and suburbanites more than 13 percent a year for four years, then an additional 4.5 percent in 2018.

    Mr. McNamara voted with the majority. Councilman Tyrone Riley cast the only no vote. The increases are to pay for more than $300 million in repairs and upgrades mandated by the Ohio EPA for the city’s aging and deteriorating drinking-water plant in East Toledo.

    “Once again, Anita Lopez has her facts wrong because I have challenged the mayor on lots of things,” Mr. McNamara said. “I think it’s a shame Lopez doesn’t want to talk about jobs, crime, and neighborhood in a forum that Democrats will pay attention to.”

    He said it is important he and Ms. Lopez meet in a one-on-one debate.

    “We are the only two who are able to beat Mike Bell,” he said of the mayor’s run for re-election. “I think voters need to learn what the differences in our positions are. We need to give Democrats the chance to see who has the best chance to win. There’s going to be debates with everyone at some point.”

    Also running for mayor are Councilman D. Michael Collins and Alan Cox, a city neighborhood development specialist and president of one of the city unions — both political independents.

    Republican evangelist Opal Covey and retired city worker and Libertarian Michael Konwinski also plan to run.

    Staff writer Arielle Stambler contributed to this report.

    Contact Ignazio Messina at: or 419-724-6171.